How to financially survive a car crash

This article was originally posted on MouthyMoney.co.uk on 19th October. It is reposted (with some slight expansion) with the permission of the website.

I was recently in a car accident. I was literally hit by a truck. I say recently, it was in the summer of 2015, but it feels recent because I’ve only just been found as the non-fault party. I don’t want to go into too much detail (because I’m classy like that) but the basic story is that I was in the middle lane of a three-lane road when a truck nudged slightly over the white lines and clipped my car. He then drove off – due to the massiveness of the truck, he had no idea what had happened. I thought he’d just clipped my wing mirror, so I too carried on, only to get home and find the back driver side door was mashed up.

I went through my insurance because I couldn’t afford to pay for the repairs, and they warned me that because it was side-damage to my vehicle, I would probably be found at fault or settle partially, as it’s very difficult to prove liability when the side of your car is damaged. I knew this because I used to work for the collections department of an insurance company. Still, I pursued even though the only evidence we had to go on was the number plate and a vague description of the truck.

Using my combined knowledge from formally working in insurance and also from being involved in a non-fault accident, I thought it might be helpful to write down my top tips for financially surviving a non-fault car accident. Hope it helps:

  1. Stay calm. If like me, you panic, you’ll forget to do something important which could cause you problems in the future. Also, the other person has been in an accident too, so if you stay calm, you can probably sort it reasonably without getting upset. Be clear, calm, and collected.
  2. Make a note of the other person’s registration number. Also write down a description of the vehicle and the driver if possible, too. I can’t stress how important it is to have the registration number, otherwise your claim will be dead in the water.
  3. If it’s safe, stop to assess. Pull over and assess the damage. If there are any injuries, get medical help. But if there aren’t then just check over the car. If the person who hit you stops, photograph their damage, as well. This will all fit together to help your case.
  4. Take statements. If the person who hits you admits fault, ask them to call their insurance company at the roadside to log the claim. If they can’t or won’t, then ask them to write a statement. If there are any witnesses then take their details. Note: In England and Wales, passengers don’t count as independent witnesses, but in Scotland they do. Your insurance company may take a witness statement from a passenger, but they’re not as valuable as someone completely unknown to you.
  5. Be clear about your location. You could use Google Maps to pin your location, or take photos of where you are. Make a note of road markings, hazards, and/or obstructions. Could there be CCTV cameras around? That might be useful if the claim is disputed.
  6. Create a diagram and a description while it’s all fresh in your mind. Insurers will often ask for your version of events, especially if your claim is disputed by the other driver. Because I’m rubbish at drawing, I used a website called Accident Sketch – you can include all the details on there, too.
  7. Always agree to go to court if they ask you. To be honest, these claims rarely reach litigation because it is expensive and the loser pays all the fees. If you refuse to go to court, it looks like you have something to hide.
  8. Be persistent with your insurer. In my accident, the truck’s insurance company were very difficult. They didn’t acknowledge the claim for about nine months, then they refused to let my insurance company examine their vehicle. My insurance company contacted me a few times, saying that it was not cost effective and they might drop it. I urged them to continue, and in the end (thankfully) I got a positive result.

Having a car accident is horrible, and hopefully you’ll never have to deal with it. But if you do, and it’s not your fault, these tips might just help you to preserve your no claims bonus and your excess. Stay safe.

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